At the time everyone is trying to recover from the Corona pandemic, the proposal to hike electricity and gas prices is suicidal, says the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI).
At a press conference held at the FBCCI office in the capital at Motijheel on Saturday, the leaders of the organisation further said that the decision on whether the price of gas and electricity will go up has to come politically, and not from bureaucrats. This initiative has been taken to bring the government into disarray.
Hiking the prices of electricity and gas would further increase the cost of doing business and make it impossible to maintain competitiveness, said Md Jashim Uddin, president of FBCCI.
Jashim Uddin said that ‘Quick Rental’ power plants were once needed, but no longer needed now. Inefficient power plants along with quick rental power plants should be shut down. Most of the gas-fired power plants are now shut down.
The government is planning to increase the price of electricity and gas without paying attention to it. The industrial sector cannot bear the compensation for the wrong plan of the government.
“Raising electricity and gas prices would be a suicidal decision for the government. The government has to understand that in time. If the price of electricity and gas goes up, the price of all kinds of products will go up, which will have a negative effect on public life. If this continues, a chaotic situation may arise in the country. The government will have to take its responsibility then,” he added.
He speculated on whether such proposals (to increase gas and electricity prices) were made to force the government into an uncomfortable situation.
The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) last week recommended hiking bulk electricity prices by 57.83%.
The recommendation was made during a day-long public hearing on the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) proposal to hike bulk electricity tariffs by 66%.
Traders have expressed deep concerns saying the country's industrial sector may see a power tariff hike of 135% as the end-user if authorities move forward with this proposal.
The FBCCI President said, "Even then, if there is an attempt to increase prices, it should be adjusted through subsidies from power sector funds without imposing it on traders."
He said that if the ongoing crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine War persists, only then steps can be taken to increase prices to address the imbalance.
He claimed that businesses were being burdened with the huge expenses made for power generation, which is now more than the actual demand.
People should not bear the brunt of the irregularities and mismanagement of the power sector, he added.
Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) President Mohammad Ali Khokon, presenting various data, asked, why do Titas and Petrobangla want to hike prices despite being in profit?
Echoing the same, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) Vice President Shahidullah Azim said it would not be wise for the authorities to rush to a decision regarding the price hike.
"Exports will decline if the proposals are accepted. Also, pressure on foreign exchange reserves will mount."
National Association of Small & Cottage Industries of Bangladesh (NASCIB) President Mirza Nurul Ghani claimed that there was an international conspiracy behind the attempt to increase the price of electricity and gas. To move away from this, we need a politically far-sighted decision of a democratic government.
BKMEA vice-president Mohammad Hatem said the decision to increase gas and electricity prices would be "terrible" when the export sector is booming. Bangladesh will lag behind the competing countries.
Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez, president of the Bangladesh Chamber of Industries, said, "The dollar crisis is going on in the country now. Commodity prices are rising because of the Ukraine-Russia war. Now if the price of electricity
and gas is increased, the cost of production will increase and have an effect on the consumer. Now is not the time for raising electricity and gas prices. "
Former FBCCI president Safiul Islam Mohiuddin, BGMEA president Farooq Hasan and other top business leaders also spoke at the press conference.